A new biotechnology initiative backed by dog-loving scientists is bringing a new wave of nutrition made from Irish seaweed to canines world-wide with the launch of Blue Pet Co.
Based in County Kerry in the west of Ireland, Blue Pet Co joins a US$1.9 billion industry which is growing 6 percent annually with its new zero-carbon, plant-based supplements which are enriched with unique nutrients that are only found in algae.
The supplements are made with hand-harvested seaweed using a bioprocessing technique – the only of its kind to be successfully scaled in Europe and one of only a handful available in the world – that extracts and concentrates unique molecules, such as fucoidan, seaweed’s answer to collagen. The zero-carbon technique and plant-based nutrient source has major implications for the dog food production industry that generates 106 million tonnes of CO2 wastage, which is equivalent to a year’s worth of driving from 21 million cars.
The ocean is the largest carbon sink in the world – due to the presence of algae which:
- are a 100% renewable carbon positive resource
- grows quicker and captures more carbon than trees on a daily basis
- does not compete with food for land use
- does not require fertilizers or pesticides – just energy from the sun
- supports ocean biodiversity and ocean health
- are full of novel molecules with key health and wellness benefits
Blue Pet Co’s supplements have been developed over five years by a 30-strong team of dog-loving scientists from marine biologists to bio scientists. The supplements have been ‘bio-designed’ – that is, their seaweed-derived molecules have been scientifically proven in the world of marine biology and animal physiology to have specific health benefits. They are then extracted and combined to target key areas of health concern in dogs. Blue Pet Co.’s launch range of supplements targets joints and muscles, skin and hair, teeth and gums.
Blue Pet Co’s health-enhancing molecules that are only found in seaweed:
- Fucoidan – ECM support (skin, hair, bone, cartilage), anti-oxidant, immuno-modulatory, prebiotic
- Polyphenols – anti-oxidant, anti-allergy, anti-tyronsinase
- Beta-glucan – anti-inflammatory, prebiotic, anti-microbial, skin health
- Marine minerals – Seaweed contains over 60 minerals and micronutrients
- Vegan micro-algal omegas – Algae-derived Omega 3, 6, 7 & 9
- Seagel – Wound healing, tissue regeneration, anti-bacterial, detoxifier, cosmetic textures
- U-algae – Micronised organic seaweeds
Blue Pet Co has been founded by Eddie Murphy, an entrepreneur from Tralee, who is the brother of world-famous Sons of Anarchy actor Timothy Murphy. After graduating from Dublin Business School in 1996, Eddie has had a long and successful career as a tech entrepreneur when he realised he wanted to do something that made a difference in the world. Eddie says: “Growing up in the west of Ireland my days were spent messing about with the ocean. I grew up in a local seaside place called Fenit and we used to gather seaweed, dry it out and eat it. I was also a keen sailor.
“I spent much of my time travelling the world with work and in the places I travelled, particularly across Asia, seaweed was much more commonplace in food and other products. There was a lot of interest in it among biochemists and the nutritional community as ‘superfood’ and I thought to myself – why, with such great expanses of seaweed-clad shoreline, isn’t anyone in Ireland capitalising on this opportunity?
“I came across Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) Marine Functional Foods Research Initiative and it was clear that there was a hugely under utilised opportunity for developing products from seaweed that would not only benefit the local economy but that could have massive implications for nutritional health and sustainability.”
Eddie launched his first hatchery and partnered with a number of Blue Pet Co co-founders, including marine entrepreneurs, phycologists, biochemists and cellular biologists, some of whom had been involved in the Marine Functional Foods Research Initiative, to form NutraMara a marine molecule company and biorefinery in 2017. He has since established three sister ventures in the new ‘blue biotech’ category, including Seatheory, bioactive supplements for hair, Seabody, skin health supplements and now Blue Pet Co which applies the same science-based approach to dog nutritional health.
“I have two children – a seven and eight-year-old – and making sure they have a good diet with the right vitamins is just part of being a good parent. It’s the same with my Italian Spinone. She isn’t just my dog, she’s part of my family, and I know millions of other dog owners feel the same.
“And with 3.2 million new dog owners adopting a pet during the pandemic, dog health and nutrition has come even more into the spotlight. I think generally covid has made us think more about our own mortality and the need to lead a healthy lifestyle and we’ve reflected that onto our pets, too. Not to mention the fact that vet bills are higher than they have been for 10 years.
“There is also huge variation in the common ailments that different breeds suffer with. Nutrition can minimise the progression of such ailments in a big way, so we wanted to create a range of functional dog supplements that would make it easier for owners to address their pet’s specific needs. For example, smaller breeds often have problems with their teeth, so we have created a supplement dedicated to improving oral health.
“Owning a pet comes with responsibility not just to their welfare, but to the welfare of our planet. Zero-waste simply doesn’t happen in the pet industry, but using fast-regenerating, carbon-sequestering seaweed in animal food products can make a huge difference. We’re also in a unique position where we have oversight of the entire supply chain, so we can ensure we’re reducing our environmental impact at every step of the way, from sea to shelf.”
Blue Pet Co will also soon begin to offer traceable carbon credits for any product purchase or for sponsoring the growth of seaweed on NutraMara’s farms, offering a gateway for other firms to help in the fight against climate change. Eddie says: “Since embarking on this journey to launch Blue Pet Co, I’ve come to truly believe in a circular economy. It starts with the sea. Everything comes from and is connected to seawater and seaweed. Seaweed’s role in absorbing carbon – faster and in vaster quantities than trees – is being realised around the globe by people, organisations and governments that care about the future of our Earth just as much as we do. Using our natural habitat, we can have an active role in helping our pets, plants and the planet. Our carbon credits will allow other likeminded businesses to do this, too.”
Gary Daly, CEO at Blue Pet Co says: “It’s hugely encouraging to see that millions of households have joined fellow dog lovers like us and opened their homes and hearts to four-legged family members. But veterinary practices are under such pressure – even our resident veterinary experts are seeing patients at unprecedented levels.
“We all know that adopting a dog is a huge responsibility and that they are entirely dependent on us, as their owners, for a happy and healthy life. But with bills at their highest for a decade we need to take that responsibility even more seriously and do everything we can to avoid a trip to the vets.
“Couple this with the complex needs of an increasingly diverse breed pool, many of our beloved pets are unintentionally missing out on the nutrients they need to fend off health issues.
“Being dog lovers ourselves, we recognise the challenges that owners are facing when it comes to their dog’s nutritional health – it’s a minefield. So, we wanted to create a range of functional dog supplements that would make it easier for owners to address their pet’s specific needs. For example, smaller breeds often have problems with their teeth, so we have created a supplement dedicated to improving oral health.
“As biotechnologists, we also know that pet food production contributes to millions of tonnes of CO2 wastage a year – that’s the same amount of CO2 produced by 21 million cars annually. So, it goes without saying that the benefits of using ‘blue’ biotechnology in pet food products is huge. Seaweed is not only a superfood which promotes gut, bone and skin health and immunity in both humans and dogs, it’s fast-growing, regenerates easily and can be sourced from right on our shorestep. Most owners want to make ethical choices for their pets, so why not make an ethical choice for our planet at the same time?”